5 issues that divide employers and employees

5 issues that divide employers and employees
By now you’ve heard the chant from workers fighting for a hike in the minimum wage: I can't survive on $7.25!

     But at a protest 128 years ago, workers belted this: "Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for what we will!"
     The fight over the eight-hour workday culminated in a clash May 4, 1886, on Haymarket Square in Chicago and ended with the deaths of seven policemen and four workers, according to the Illinois Labor History Society.
     While the eight-hour day eventually became a standard in American workplaces, it is also true that today many employees no longer qualify for overtime. More than a century after Haymarket, a number of issues still divide employees and employers. Here are five:
  • Minimum wage:  Most Americans favor an increase in the minimum wage, according to the Pew Research Center. The federal minimum remains $7.25 (some localities and states have voluntarily raised the rate). A full-time worker on $7.25 per hour makes $15,080 a year – assuming he or she gets a paid vacation. Proposals to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour have failed to gain traction in Congress.
  • Overtime: In 2004, the Labor Department changed rules for the Fair Labor Standards Act, exempting numerous workers from receiving overtime pay. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama directed the department to revisit the rules. “It doesn't make sense that in some cases this rule actually makes it possible for salaried workers to be paid less than the minimum wage," the president said.
  • Pay equity:  Women earn less, reports the National Committee on Pay Equity.  For every dollar earned by a man, a woman earns 77 cents. And consider that many are breadwinners. As of 2012, roughly three out of four unmarried women with children were in the workplace, according to the Labor Department. 
  • The income gap: The rich are getting richer. Indeed, fewer Americans identify themselves as middle class, according to a Pew Research Center/USA Today survey. In 2008, 21 percent of Americans said they were upper class, 53 percent identified themselves as middle class and 25 percent said they were lower class. That percentage shifted, and in 2014, 15 percent said they were upper class, 44 percent said they were middle class and 40 percent identified themselves as lower class.
  • Family Leave: The Family and Medical Leave Act provides 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for employees of public agencies, public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees. It also requires that group health benefits be maintained during the leave, according to the Labor Department. Employees can take leave after the birth or adoption of a child or while taking care of a sick relative. But again, this is unpaid leave.  In December 2013, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., introduced a bill that would allow 12 weeks of paid family leave. That proposal is working its way through the political process. 


     Pew study finds bosses happier at home, work

     Even with raise, low-wage earners on thin ice